When does freedom become something to fear?

Have you ever wondered what the Jewish Nation’s journey through the desert looked like? After all, we commemorate this journey with the holiday of Sukkot. Hundreds of thousands of families traveled through the wilderness, after growing up as slaves to the most powerful empire in the world.

What was it like for this nation of slaves to suddenly be thrust into a new reality of freedom in the wilderness?

Many of us take the idea of freedom for granted. We feel that the plethora of choices we make every day (a nap before dinner, the outfit we put on in the morning, Coke or Pepsi) is normal. But for many people, the space for all that decision-making can feel foreign and frightening.

For somebody emerging from the shadows of addiction, the idea of freedom can be daunting. Like the Jews enslaved in Egypt, an addict’s choices are never dictated by their free will.

There are so many choices to be made every day, and so many of them can present new obstacles or temptations.

An effective rehabilitation program doesn’t just look at alleviating the symptoms and the immediate reality.

For sustainable recovery, you need to learn how to be free. At Retorno, the largest Jewish organization in the world for the prevention and treatment of addictions, our staff understands that recovery means much more than “getting clean.” In order for recovery to be successful, you need to free yourself from the trauma or other issues that fuel your addiction, developing coping skills and resilience.

For the Jewish  Nation, that lesson began with the shelter offered by the pillars of clouds that accompanied them. The Torah states that they lived in “Sukkot,” translated as “booths.”

Away from the environment that enslaved them, and free from material concerns, there was finally an opportunity to focus on their personal growth.

On Sukkot, we are meant to follow their lead. We leave our homes and possessions behind to eat meals in makeshift huts, or booths. What are the lessons gleaned from this practice?

For many of us, it’s a time to focus on the temporary nature of our physical comforts. For someone struggling with addiction, the Sukkah can be a different kind of symbol.

A Sukkah is a symbol of hope. It’s the harbinger of freedom. In the desert, it offered shelter. While it might feel like addiction has become the only reality you know, the Sukkah is a reminder that you have the freedom to leave.

It may not be easy, and there may be some desert sand and heat to traverse, but there is a promise that freedom that awaits you.

About the Author
Shoshana Schwartz is an addictions counselor and therapeutic horseback riding instructor at Retorno. She is the author of four books and is a weekly contributor to Mishpacha magazine.
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